Francoise von Trapp

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“Firsts are good but lasts are better. The Internet of Everything (IoE) is ushering in many firsts but its legacy will be measured in the lasts it creates: the last blackout, the last product recall, the last traffic jam, the last missed delivery…” ~ Cisco 

The promise the Internet of Things (IoT) — or as Cisco calls it the IoE — holds for semiconductor industry growth has made it this year’s hottest topics for just about every event I have attended and plan to attend. But what about the promise it holds for human kind? Will it really deliver the way it’s expected to? And what will the world be like if it does?

At the IMAPS Global Business Council 2015, held concurrently with IMAPS International Device Packaging Conference March 16-19, 2015, speakers addressed everything from IoT market trends and its value proposition for the semiconductor industry, to applications, packaging trends and requirements.

In his presentation, Mobilizing the MEMS/Sensors and adjacent ecosystems, Stephen Whalley, MEMS Industry Group, echoed the message of a world of abundance enabled by a trillion sensors, which was presented by Dr. Janusz Bryzek, Chairman and CEO, TSensors Summit, at IWLPC 2014. The Four Pillars of Abundance are:
• Produce enough food to feed a population of 9.6B by 2050
• Affordable healthcare for all
• Clean air and water for all
• Clean energy for all

Who can argue with a promise like that? Achieving this requires 45 trillion existing and new sensor types. So if we’re going to get this done, we’ve got lots of work to do.

Whalley says it typically takes 20-30 years to get new sensor types from concept through production. Future demand is strong, and since the development of the iPhone, the pace of development has increased. “What else can be done to foster accelerated growth and innovation for abundance,” asked Whalley. “What do we need to do?” The question was rhetorical. He went on to tell us what we need to do. We need to expand development of exponential technologies like biotech, nanomaterials, networks, MEMS/sensors, 3D printing, flexible electronics, etc. We need to embrace exponential organizations like Uber, Instagram, Square and Dropbox as new business models. We need to follow examples set by techno-philanthropists like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Diamandis, who have set goals to connect the rising billion poor, plugging them into the global network so that they can benefit from this world of abundance.

Coming down from the lofty goals of abundance to the nuts and bolts of actually implementing the IoT, Rozalia Beica, Yole Développement presented a timeline for the IOT market, which she says will be a 400B market by 2024. Now we are building the consumer and home automation. By 2016, we can expect to see the IoT affecting retail and logistics. By 2018, it will be enabling health, life science and industrial applications. By 2020, we can expect to see it implemented in transportation, security and public safety, and environmental applications. Beica noted that optimism for the IoT is higher than current investment, and that the true value of the IoT will be in the data, not the hardware (Figure 1).

IoTvalueYole copy

Figure 1: Profit margin breakdown of IoT segments. The value will be in the data. (Source, Yole Développement)

 

According to Jim Walker, Gartner, the IoT is the new growth driver, but it is a fragmented market with no volume leaders. Low cost and low power requirements demand innovative legacy nodes. He also noted that design cost of SoC is too high for many IoT applications.

“The IoT is morphing the competitive landscape of semiconductor manufacturers,” noted Walker. “Legacy 200mm foundries can help offset the increase in demand for capacity.” We’ve seen this happening in Europe for some time as part of a plan to revitalize legacy fabs and create opportunity in the EU. The EU is very dedicated to IoT success. Earlier this month, they launched EuroCPS, a program designed to involve smaller players in IoT development by providing €9.2M in funding and design support for ideas related to the field. This is part of a three year,€25M project sponsored by the  European Commission known as the Smart-Anything-Everywhere initiative.

Walker, Vardaman and Prior all agreed that packaging technologies will be a critical part of the IoT, and that there will be no one specific package type. Walker noted that system in package (SiP) rather than SoC will be solution as the IoT grows.

“The cost/performance trade-off determines what package people will use,” noted Vardaman, adding that the choice would also be affected by product requirements.

Prior agreed, and said that mature technologies like wafer level chip scale packages (WLCSP) would be used for low-cost devices. Package on package (PoP) and stacked die will target logic/memory applications, and SiP will be used to integrate sensors, logic and memory. He also noted that while the IoT will be an emerging and fast growth market, it’s really been in the background for a long time.

In any case, it was a full morning of IoT and IoE, and once again it got me thinking about what all this means if and when the IoT permeates our every day lives.

On a personal level, I’m not sure how I’ll handle text notifications from my fridge that the milk is low, (wine bottle sensors – now that’s a different story) or that I’ll actually want a car that’s connected to the Internet (or drives itself). I like that there are a still a few places where I can truly disconnect. I’m happy with my 11-year old VW Golf, and I can only imaging the cost of maintenance of a high-end, self-driving, sensor loaded vehicle. Whalley talked about wearable clothing that take your vital signs when you put them on. I don’t even like to get on the scale every morning. I’m not sure I want to know my vitals on a daily basis, although I do see the benefits of non-invasive diagnostic devices for those who really need them, as well as the potential for reduction in medical costs through the ability to diagnose remotely. For example, Houston TX is testing a pilot program for EMT calls that reduces the number of transport trips to the ER by putting patients directly in contact with ER doctors who can remotely evaluate non-emergent situations.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has these concerns. My point is, making the IoT technically feasible is only half of the work we need to do. The other part is convincing the world that rather than being invaded by the IoT, their lives will be improve by it. It’s a delicate balance for sure. But wouldn’t it be amazing to realize this world of abundance? All of this is expected to happen by 2050. I will be 85 in 2050. If all goes well, I just might be alive to see it happen. ~ F.v.T.